A week and a day after Hurricane Irma cut a path through the Florida Keys as a massive and powerful Category 4 storm, Marathon residents gathered Monday night at the Marathon Community Park for a town-hall meeting to hear about recovery assistance.
They were given the go-ahead to come back to the Middle Keys Saturday. People living in the rest of the Keys down to Key West began going home at daybreak Sunday.
City Manager Chuck Lindsey told a group of about 100 residents Monday the city had faced some criticism about not letting them back in until six days after the storm.
“The bottom line is it was a tough decision but we made it because we needed all of you guys. I appreciate everybody getting back,” he said, at one point having to stop talking to hold back tears.
For hurricane debris, there will be three phases of pickup in the city. When moving it to the curb, separate appliances from debris and garbage. Make sure garbage is separate from debris as well or it will not be picked up. Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon is not open, so use caution, Lindsey said.
“I need everyone to be really careful. There are a lot of downed power lines so treat every wire like it’s hot. On the utility side, if your candy cane [vent] got knocked over, leave it where it’s at,” he said.
Lindsey told homeowners to hire licensed contractors for repair work and make sure they’re insured.
“Hire a local contractor first. Whenever there’s a disaster, people come in and take advantage. There will be scams. People will come down and take a deposit and you never see them again,” he said.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross and Small Business Administration told of opportunities they provide.
FEM spokesman Ryan Streeter encouraged people to register for assistance by calling (800)-621-3362, downloading the FEMA app or visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Applicants will need the following to apply: Social Security number, daytime telephone number, current mailing address and address and zip code of the damaged property, and prrivate insurance information, if available.
A team was set to start helping people register Tuesday at Marathon City Hall, 9805 Overseas Highway.
At Marathon High School, 350 Sombrero Beach Road, the American Red Cross is providing food, temporary shelter and cleaning supplies like bleach, mops and gloves. “Anything you need,” said spokeswoman Denise Everhart.
The Small Business Administration offers a suite of disaster loan programs to people who own their home, renters and businesses of all sizes. First, register for assistance with FEMA and they’ll refer you to the SBA or call (800) 659-2955.
“The city of Marathon has taken a punch in the mouth but we’re dusting ourselves off, standing back up and we’re going to be better than ever,” said Mayor Dan Zieg.
An estimated 10,000 Florida Keys residents are homeless following the storm, according to Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke in Marathon Monday. Monroe County has about 75,000 residents.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219